This is an interesting article that, to be honest, I expected a bit more from. It comments on some obvious things such as how problematic a rigid and joyless form of ultra-masculinity can be, as well as being careful not to say that discipline isn’t important.
While I appreciate that the author, Dave Holmes, doesn’t use the term ‘toxic masculinity’ (which I think doesn’t really mean anything any more) what I do think he could have developed further is the very last line. In it, he mentions that the real threat to manhood is us “staying children” which is a much more interesting area to explore.
The world is more individualised, gamified, and commercialised than ever before. Masculinity, as a concept, is therefore an idea to be bought and sold. The version we need to fix the world is not the version that gains the most likes on social media; it’s one that is confident, self-reflective, and biased towards helping others.
You can be forgiven for not noticing that men aren’t men anymore, because men are always not men anymore. “Men aren’t men anymore”—like “nobody younger than me wants to work” and “this isn’t real music”—has been said every day in every language since we’ve had days and languages. It’s a particular concern in America, where men haven’t been men anymore from the jump. Almost certainly one of our founding fathers told his son, “Don’t leave this house without your wig, stockings, and frock coat—I didn’t raise a sissy.”
Source: Can You Still Say ‘Be A Man’? | Esquire
“Men are not men anymore” is ancient; “men are not men anymore, buy this and fix that,” slightly newer. But this is a much bleaker time, a time of “men are not men anymore, smash that subscribe button.” A generation of boys looking for rules has met a generation of creeps looking for an audience: Jordan Peterson, Steven Crowder, Andrew Tate. Guys who offer a rigid and joyless version of masculinity. Guys whose brand says, “I have learned how to throttle everything that is exuberant and playful within myself to become someone else’s version of what a man is; what’s wrong with you?” Guys who have chosen a car for its color and will never forgive themselves for it.
This is not to say you should throw away rules, or that playing to a person’s insecurity isn’t sometimes the right move. I quit smoking at 30, cold turkey, unless I was in a bar, or walking home after a good meal, or near someone who asked, “Would you like a cigarette?” My friend Lee picked up on this. “For someone who has quit smoking,” he said, “you are doing a lot of smoking.” I protested, “It’s just hard in certain situations.” Lee looked me in the eye and said, “Have you tried being a man?” Haven’t had a cigarette since.
Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Lee aren’t saying independent thinking and discipline are virtues for men as opposed to women. They are just virtues. Rules for good living. Like we aim to provide in the Esquire of 2023. It’s time we stop being so worried about becoming women and start focusing on the real threat to manhood: staying children.